Recently, a friend of mine asked my thoughts on being a father. First of all, that may actually have been the first time anyone has actively solicited my opinion (frequently offered, so rarely asked for). I bought a donut in celebration. And then I bought a donut just so I could eat 2 donuts.
Secondly, as I thought about being a father, I discovered I have thoughts about being a father. All my papa peeps know what I’m talking about here; thinking about things is for that misty time before the kid dropped, or in the car on the way to the pediatrician appointment, or in those fraught seconds when you try to remember why exactly you’re in the bedroom with a bottle of bleach and a bowl of spaghetti.
Yeah, turns out I have thoughts aplenty. And I thought I would share some of these aforementioned thoughts with yall.
One of the questions he asked me was “what surprised you?” And my first, snide response was “Shit, ninja, how much time we got here? Lord help the rainforests you ever wanna print this out.” Seriously, if rude awakenings count as surprises, the first week after birth is the equivalent of waking up strapped with dynamite in a cold shower that’s somehow 1,000 miles up in freefall at night when suddenly you discover that you’re actually a horse.
But that probably wouldn’t have been helpful.
So I tried to think past all the ground covered by “3 Men and a Baby” and any given sitcom (all those jokes, by the way, they’re all true), think past the meconium and the realization of how stunningly little sleep you can function on, and give my friend some actual insights. And I came up with 3 things.
The first surprise occurred almost a month after the fact – how quickly and completely you become a parent. Yes, in theory, you get 9 months to see it coming, but you get your whole life to know you’re going to die and yet it still catches you off guard.
Not that I’m comparing parenthood to death. Good lord, no. Please don’t tell the mama I wrote that.
But really, one day you’re two people who are going to have a kid, and then the next day you’re parents. And all the reading and classes might just as well have been about tae-bo and Mexican cooking when that first bit of baby touches air. But you don’t have time or space to think about anything except what the baby needs RIGHT NOW. You spend weeks (if not months) putting out fires and then when you can finally straighten your back and walk slowly again you realize you’re a parent. A seasoned veteran. Like going to bed in Minneapolis and waking up in Buenos Aires being able to speak fluent Spanish and knowing which street vendor has the best bananas on Mondays in summer.
The other two surprises will be a surprise. Sometime when I’ve had more sleep.